Losing Tom Brady, having a league-high eight players opt out, the 2020 Patriots were expected to take a hit from what they have been in the past.
Going into the year, seeing them not win the AFC East for the first time in 11 years was something certainly in play, but with an extra playoff team and Bill Belichick still leading the way, the team was still expected to make the playoffs.
On the flip side, what if things really didn’t go well? Then you could sell yourself on it being 2020, the first year without Brady, etc. and the team could look to rebuild with a top-10 draft pick. Or at the very least say it found out what Jarrett Stidham is.
Yet here we are with three games remaining in the 2020 season and it seems like the team is stuck in the middle where none of that is coming true, which is why it’s fair to say the 2020 Patriots season is very close to be considered a failure.
Not only is the team likely missing out on the playoffs, it still doesn’t have an answer at the most important position — quarterback — and it’s not like there’s a high draft pick to look forward to.
The Patriots are essentially in the same position as they were last offseason following Brady’s departure.
As of now, they would be selecting No. 16 overall in next year’s draft, which isn’t that far away from when they drafted No. 23 overall in 2020 and made the postseason the year prior.
Certainly picking in the middle of the first round increases the odds of getting a franchise-caliber player, but it’s not as good as if they were picking inside the top-10.
Going into the season, prior to the addition of Newton, one of the No. 1 goals was figuring out what Stidham is and determining if he’s part of the long-term plan at the position. As of now, it doesn’t feel like Newton will be back and the team really doesn’t know what it has in the second-year player.
So in essence, nothing has changed.
As of now, Stidham has only appeared in mop-up duty and according to quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch, he primarily only runs the scout team during practice. Without really running the Patriots offense, do the Patriots truly know what they have in the Auburn product?
Now this could certainly change if Stidham is given the chances to start in any of the games to close out the season, but as of now the Patriots will go through the season not getting an answer on what the second-year quarterback is.
That would be OK if Newton was the answer for the future, but that does not appear to be the case.
It’s also worth looking at the team as a whole. It’s not like the Patriots allowed many young players to develop any more than they would have otherwise.
The only exception is offensive lineman Michael Onwenu, who has done exceptionally well with the playing time he received as a result of injuries and Marcus Cannon opting out. Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche have played well in their time as rookies, but given where they were drafted they would have played anyway.
After 13 games this season, which younger Patriots players have demonstrated the ability to feel good about their futures?
Damien Harris, Onwenu, Uche, Dugger — it’s a small list.
Regardless, it’s not a case where the Patriots can say at the expense of a tough season they are set up better for the future. It’s hard to make a case that the team is in a better situation now than it was last offseason.
By in large, the 2020 season will not be considered a success for various reasons, but could be salvaged at least a little by starting Stidham before Week 17 against the Jets to get a true feel for what he is.
Not making the playoffs is understandable given everything that took place both in the offseason and during the year, but the Patriots could have made the most of the situation and it doesn’t feel like they have.